The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe Black-mantled Tamarin - Issue Nineteen
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The Black-mantled Tamarin: photo from Christian ArtusoThe Black-mantled Tamarin is a species of tamarin from the northwestern Amazon in far western Brazil, southeastern Colombia and northeastern Peru where they mainly eats insects, leaves, and fruit. They are 1528 cm in length and their tail length is 2742 cm. Family groups consisting of a male, a female and 1 or 2 young live in a defined territory - the female marks branches on the boundaries of the territory with secretions of her anal glands and urine. The female gives birth to 2 young after a gestation of 140 to 150 days. They are listed as Least Concern due to its adaptability to disturbed habitats, presumed large populations, and occurrence in a number of protected areas. It is not believed to be declining at a rate sufficient to qualify for a threatened category. Although they were captured for export for biomedical research in the 60s and 70s, they are still common.

   


Cup Filled with Pain

By

Mike Bates

"The sea."

Eumaeus heard the words uttered by the man standing at the cliff's edge as an assertion of fact, devoid of emotion.

"Your pardon, my Lord?"

He was but a humble swineherd, Eumaeus, but he'd felt a kinship since the man had revealed himself to Eumaeus outside those doors of polished bronze - the King Odysseus, returned from the war at long last. Many a word had passed between them since that fateful day, and Eumaeus had learned to love the man with the pride of a father for his son.

"The sea, it extends before us into eternity."

Eumaeus looked in the direction the man was gazing. But all he could see was the sea, extending the color of dark wine onto an uncertain horizon.

Then he looked into the face of the King himself. It was a rugged face, framed by a tangle of blonde hair and a russet beard, gray eyes focused on some distant shore -- a handsome face, curiously young but for lines of frenzy and fear about the eyes and nose and the crease, equal parts desire and loathing, at the brow.

So different they were, Eumaeus noticed standing so near his King, his own inevitable decay next to the King's enormous vigor. It was as though the King had been preserved by the tales of his exploits, while Eumaeus, the lowly swineherd, had continued to age, all too mortal by comparison.

"Yes, my Lord."

Eumaeus had wanted to believe what the others had said as they'd watched the King pace the windswept spine of the island. Not to worry, they would assure him. A restless spirit, the man has, impatient with the thirst for adventure, nothing more.

Eumaeus could have accepted their fascination with the growing mythos of the man. No earthly constraint could contain the wanderlust of a man such as Odysseus, it was said, least of all Ithaca, this stony outcrop in the middle of a vast sea.

But Eumaeus couldn't ignore the agitation he had seen creep into the King's behavior atop that ridge, the angry gesticulation of the arms and the clenched fists, or the insults the man could be heard hurling into the wind, as though the he were exhorting a throng assembled just over the windward side of the island into action.

He'd watched and waited, Eumaeus, until he could wait no longer, convinced that the man, King Odysseus, might mean to seek his end on those lonely heights.

"Do you see it?" the King asked.

Eumaeus took a step closer to the edge, but he swooned at a precipice falling hundreds of feet into the seething sea, and he was forced to close his eyes, pressing them tight in terror.

"The shade of Tiresias told me I'm destined to die of the sea," the King said, still looking out into the distance.

Eumaeus opened his eyes, wide with effort, but was forced to close them again as the ground seemed to move beneath his feet in a spasm of vertigo.

"But he was wrong, I fear," the King continued, "I am fated to live forever."

Eumaeus spit over his left shoulder, despite his discomfort.

"It is not hubris with which I speak, Eumaeus."

"You are Odysseus, Son of Laertz, King of Ithaca."

"That's what I told the Cyclops after I'd blinded him."

"Raider of cities," Eumaeus continued until the King interrupted, "hero of . . . ."

"Of Ilium?"

"A title of honor, my Lord."

"A curse."

Eumaeus felt the King's hand grasp his arm, steadying him. He opened his eyes and held the King's gaze with as much boldness as a man of modest fortune could muster before his Lord. The King's expression was plaintive, almost pathetic in that instant, as though the swineherd had it within his power to unload a mighty burden from his Lord's conscience.

He allowed the King to pull him by the arm to the knoll at the highest point of the island, steps from where they'd stood together atop the precipice, then sat where the King bade him as the King took his own repose, reclining with casual confidence upon one elbow. It was an astonishing privilege, a King to his vassal, even a vassal as honored as Eumaeus, and Eumaeus knew not whether it was a boon bestowed upon him for years of loyalty or a sign of the King's madness.

"Tell me of this man, Odysseus, that we might judge him together," the King said.

It was a gentle spot, the knoll, soft but for the stones against which they leaned. The sea extended in every direction, to the north, south, and west into eternity -- as the King had called it, and to the east to the mainland and the mountains rising in the distance through air thick with the brine of life.

Helios beat down on them with soft intensity. Spring grass wavered in the breeze. A flock of gulls, disturbed by the men from nests among the grass, rode the currents above them. The heights upon which Eumaeus had swooned were forgotten but for the roll of the waves, continuous and soothing, broken only by the cries of the gulls.

Eumaeus could almost make himself believe they were the first men, introduced whole cloth upon that place at that time by some device of the Gods.

"Young Dawn sits fresh upon her golden throne, Eumaeus," the King said.

Eumaeus shook his head in denial.

"What better time to speak before the day grows hot and the tale grows stale with the telling?"

Eumaeus could do little more than blanche at the request, shocked with the suggestion that he should sit in judgment of a man of the King's stature.

"Humor me, Eumaeus, for the sake of the connection that has bound us all these years."

Eumaeus looked away, touched that the King should still remember.

"You say he is the son of a King?" The question was phrased with encouragement.

"Yes, my Lord, the son of Laertes, King of the Cephallians."

"There is no Lord here, just two old friends."

Eumaeus nodded, reluctantly. "He inherited his kingdom?" the King continued.

"An honor earned through devoted service to his father."

"You mean he loved his father?"

"Of course."

"The way you loved your father, and your sons love you?"

"That's not what I meant," Eumaeus started to object.

"And his father," the King continued, ignoring Eumaeus' objection, "what would he teach this Odysseus that he should be King in his own right."

"I am hardly in a position to judge, my L' . . . my friend."

Odysseus smiled, and Eumaeus saw that it was an infectious smile, the kind that could warm the weary hearts of men.

"Was it the manly virtues he taught his son?" the King asked.

Eumaeus shrugged.

"Honor? Pride? Strength?"

They were questions Eumaeus had never considered.

"Dominion over beast and man?" the King continued.

Some men were born to privilege, and others to servitude, and it was the obligation of every man to consent to the role the Gods had ordained for him.

"The uses and abuses of privilege? The throne? The treasury? And all the trappings of wealth?"

This was the King's charade, Eumaeus was forced to acknowledge, and he would have little choice but to go along.

"Not Laertz, not with his son Odysseus," Eumaeus protested.

"What was it then, Eumaeus? What would a King teach a son who would be King?"

"Respect for our customs and laws, for one thing."

The King favored Eumaeus with an expression of approval, his brow raised, his lips pressed downward, his forehead tilted toward Eumaeus in an acknowledgement of respect, and Eumaeus took assurance from the gesture.

"And courage."

"Are you suggesting the manly art of war? The sword and the shield? Command and strategy?"

Eumaeus saw that the flock of gulls had thinned to two birds, one brilliant in the morning sun, white but for the gray of its wings, and the other brown and dirty, disheveled by comparison. The birds bobbed and weaved on the wind, sparring for the right to lay claim to the sky, though Eumaeus had little doubt which bird would prevail in the end.

"Power is its own justification?" the King continued. "No insult goes unchecked, reprisal in excess of every perceived injustice?"

Eumaeus remained still.

"Hate, bloodlust, and vengeance, that's what I call it."

"I prefer to think of it as survival."

"It seems a fine line, wouldn't you think, survival and vengeance?"

"A good King would understand the difference."

"A good King would be wise to teach his son something of humility, of compassion, of benevolence and mercy, instead."

It was Eumaeus' turn to reward his King with a nod of approval.

"And for this, Odysseus earned a palace?"

"A fine palace," Eumaeus agreed, beginning to warm to the King's questions.

"Large enough to reflect his considerable pride, honor, and ambition, I'm sure."

Eumaeus looked down upon the complex situated upon a bluff overlooking a natural harbor on the leeward side of the island. It was sprawling in its expanse, constructed of stone and wood, painted white, surrounded by formidable walls, and enclosed with doors of polish bronze, the same doors before which Odysseus had revealed himself to Eumaeus all those years ago. It was where Eumaeus made his home now, far from the herd and their sties since the King had bestowed upon him a place of honor for his loyalty.

"Large enough for an army, I dare say."

"This palace, it has a megaron of course, the throne room from which the King governs his subjects?"

Eumaeus nodded.

"And a banquet hall?"

"And private chambers, and storerooms, and workshops, and stables, and servants' quarters," Eumaeus said.

"And a retinue of servants to help with the upkeep, I hope?"

"A goatherd, a cattle herd, a blacksmith, fifty ladies in waiting, carpenters, shipwrights, a captain of the guard, laborers to work in the fields, and one loyal, old swineherd."

Odysseus pulled a skin from his jerkin, untied it, and took a long draught, squirting a long stream of purple liquid into his open mouth, then retied the skin and threw it to Eumaeus.

"A gift from Maron, high priest of Apollo. Fit for the Gods it is."

Eumaeus shook his head, embarrassed that he should drink from the same vessel as his King.

"Go on, Eumaeus. They say it loosens the tongue when consumed in moderation."

Eumaeus untied the skin, then attempted to take a draught the way his Lord had done, only to splatter the sweet liquid onto his thinning beard.

The King laughed, a good, full chortle, the kind Eumaeus had been accustomed to hearing from the palace before the war.

"Shorten the stream. You'll find it improves your aim."

Eumaeus did as he was instructed, and the King laughed again.

"So, this Odysseus, this son of a King?"

Eumaeus wiped his face with a sleeve as he nodded, then threw the skin back to his Lord.

"Seems he has a rather large retinue for one man."

"A small city, I would agree."

"Odysseus, he holds banquets I presume?"

"Sumptuous banquets, some of them lasting for days."

"For the inhabitants of this city, as you call them?"

"Oh no. Servants are never invited."

The King feigned a look of surprise, exaggerated, almost humorous, in its proportions. "Then what's in it for the servants, if they never get to share the privileges of the palace?"

Eumaeus noticed that he did feel better after a swill of the wine. "A king has many obligations."

The King sat up from his repose, as if intrigued with the suggestion. "Obligations you say?"

"Greeting visiting dignitaries for one."

"You mean those sumptuous banquets of his?"

"That, too."

"What else?"

"Defending his people, for another."

For a while, it had seemed to Eumaeus, the King had enjoyed the banter, almost relished in it, but his brow darkened again with his response, and the anger and fear, the loathing and desire returned.

"We come at last to the heart of the matter," the King said.

Eumaeus feared that he had imposed upon his King's patience with his impertinence.

"My Lord?"

"Ilium."

"My Lord heeded the call of King Agamemnon in defense of his brother Menelaus and Menelaus' bride, Helen."

"You mean this Odysseus, he participated in the destruction of Ilium on behalf of one cuckolded husband?"

"The House of Priam violated the guest rights."

Odysseus took another pull on the skin, then threw it to Eumaeus. "You know what I think?"

Eumaeus held the skin, afraid to presume familiarity again.

"I think Agamemnon conceived the whole enterprise to pillage the treasury of King Priam, in league with Menelaus and Helen," the King went on, "and Helen, returned again to her place of honor upon the throne of Lacedaemon once the treasury of King Priam resided within the vaults of Atreus."

"That's not the way the bards sing it."

"What do the bards sing?"

"The bards sing that the war was the will of the God Zeus, whose shield is storm and sword is thunder."

Odysseus laughed, a curt, cruel sort of snort that suggested disdain for the notion that the Gods took any interest in the bloodshed.

"They sing that Odysseus rallied the Achaeans to the call from Agamemnon. They sing that Odysseus contributed twelve ships to the expedition, and six hundred men. They sing that Odysseus was the one who persuaded Achilles to join the expedition. They sing that Odysseus counseled Agamemnon to hold the field after Achilles had withdrawn, as Agamemnon and his generals lay wounded and weary from battle."

"Ah yes, the avarice of Agamemnon, the pride of Achilles."

"They sing that Odysseus devised the strategy that breached the walls of Ilium."

"And the cunning of Odysseus."

"Wisdom, some would call it."

"Cunning is a fox, Eumaeus, and wisdom, an owl. Trapped together, the fox will devour the owl, every time."

The King stood to take the skin back from Eumaeus and drained the remaining contents, squeezing it for one last drop of the nectar. "You know what I think, Eumaeus?"

Eumaeus joined his Lord standing.

"I think this Odysseus secretly enjoyed the killing. He relished the pillage, and took his fair share of the plunder."

"Men of Odysseus' stature are driven by strong appetites," Eumaeus protested.

The King had begun to pace back and forth atop the knoll, his fists clenching and unclenching. "Men like your Odysseus are fools, Eumaeus."

"I'm certain he did what he thought he had to do, for the honor of his house."

"You mean he suffered the death of thousands of men? The rape of thousands of women?"

"As unfortunate as you make it sound."

"Untold children orphaned? A city reduced to rubble? A dynasty destroyed? Our innocence sullied, your innocence, Eumaeus, and mine, for the honor of one house?"

"The truth, none the same."

"And, now they're dead after all these long years, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Achilles, Diomedes, Ajax, and Nestor, everyone who had a hand in the folly, everyone except cunning Odysseus. He alone carries the burden of their crimes."

The King took several steps toward the precipice, quick and determined. Eumaeus reached out a hand to stop him, and the King turned, back toward his swineherd. "Let me tell you the rest of the story so that you may understand the stature of this man Odysseus, the man you call your King."

Eumaeus took a step closer, but the King turned away, as though embarrassed by what he was about to say.

"This man, this King Odysseus, set sail from Ilium, his pride swollen, his lust sated, the hulls of his ships burdened with plunder, but it seemed that the Gods had other plans for him."

Odysseus opened the skin, turning it over his gaping mouth, then tossed it over the edge when he could draw no more comfort from it, discarding it without so much as a thought as though it had no value devoid of its intoxicating contents.

"He raided the island of Ismaros, killing its men and raping its women before an ill wind carried him to the land of the lotus eaters and on to the island of the Cyclops, to the island of Circes, through the straits of the Sirens to the gates of Hades, and to the island of Helios before landing him in the lair of the sea nymph, Calypso."

Eumaeus already knew the story.

"Lessons to be learned, of restraint, of respect, of reserve.''

Everyone knew the story.

"If this, this Odysseus had ever had the humility to learn them."

The story was already the material of legends.

"The tranquility of the lotus eaters, the wisdom of the sirens, the cattle of Helios, the humble existence of the Cyclops, the temptation of the sea nymph, and what did this Odysseus do?"

Eumaeus said nothing, more from helplessness than ignorance.

"He denied his men their tranquility. He deceived the sirens. He blinded the Cyclops. He suffered his men to eat the cattle. Then, he had his way with the sea nymph, over and over and over again, until he could no longer stand the scent of her."

Eumaeus shook his head.

"He did what he had to do to return. That is all that matters."

"It is said he even visited the dead, out there, beyond the great ocean river," the King continued, "and returned to the land of the living as you say. For what? A birthright he did nothing to earn? A wife who didn't love him? A son who didn't know him?"

"His wife was true, and his son, stalwart."

"Still, it was arrogance that drove him, and pride, terrible pride."

"Who am I to judge?"

The King had resumed his pacing. "How can you not judge when you know what comes next?"

"You are my Lord."

"You were there, Eumaeus. You did my bidding."

Eumaeus shuddered with the memory of that awful slaughter, dozens of men, a hundred even, and twelve maids.

"Carnage it was, pure and simple, when an introduction before his beloved wife and proof to her suitors would have sufficed. Men butchered in the prime of their lives - good men, and handmaids hanged for their insolence."

"They presumed to take what was his."

"They presumed to take no more than what was taken at Ilium."

"We live in violent times."

"An excuse, Eumaeus. A convenient excuse to justify the worst acts of men and Kings."

Eumaeus could offer no more than a shrug.

"I know what she meant now," the King whispered.

"Who, my Lord? You know what who meant?"

"Calypso, before I left her."

"What was it she said?"

"'If you only knew,' she said, 'down deep, what pains are fated to fill your cup before you reach those shores.'"

There was a moment's silence between the two men as each of them regarded the warning, Eumaeus with sympathy for the man who had received it, and the King with what Eumaeus could only interpret as disgust.

"I've lived with those ghosts, Eumaeus, all these awful years," the King said.

Eumaeus nodded in deference to his own ghosts, the men they'd killed together and the maids that he, Eumaeus, had taken special delight in hanging.

"My pride, my lust, my insatiable appetite for honor and glory, and the lives destroyed, all of them, because of me."

"I am sorry, my Lord."

Eumaeus knew it was inadequate, his apology, empty and devoid of meaning in the face of such terrible remorse, but he shared in the guilt.

"Tell me, Eumaeus, how is your family?"

Eumaeus was startled by the change in the direction of his Lord's thoughts.

"Your wife, the woman I gave you for your loyalty?" the King persisted.

"Fine, my Lord. A good woman she is, a friendly face in my old age."

"And your sons?"

"Working in my Lords' fields."

"Are you happy?"

"I suppose so, my Lord. We lead a simple life. We don't have much, but we want for nothing."

"It is strange."

"What, my Lord? What is strange?"

"That you have nothing, and you are happy. While I have everything, and I am not."

"It is in the nature of things, that some men desire much while many must be satisfied with little."

"Think upon that for a moment, upon what you've just said, and explain the logos of it if you can."

Odysseus hesitated an instant, then turned from Eumaeus when he did not rise to the challenge and strode the remaining steps toward the precipice. Eumaeus followed, despite his fear of the heights.

"The sea," the King said, his voice distant.

Eumaeus heard the words again. "Yes, my Lord."

"Do you see it?"

"The sea, my Lord?"

"The waves."

The King raised an arm to point to a spot far out on the horizon.

"Out there beyond the point where the eye can see, the waves."

Eumaeus let his gaze follow the direction of his Lord's attention.

"Insubstantial they are out there," the King said, "roiling about unformed and unbidden, at the mercy of the wind and the currents, barely an idea in the minds of the Gods."

Eumaeus said nothing.

"Closer in, the swells appear, still taking shape, rough and disorganized."

"I see them."

"The swells grow into waves as they close upon us, gaining purpose and power."

"Yes, my Lord."

"They peak, enormous in their potential, immense and irresistible."

Eumaeus watched the nearest wave grow to its highest point, then crest with a crash onto the cliff face below them.

"Like the generations of men they are, the ones to come after us, one generation after another."

Eumaeus looked up at his Lord, a question in his expression.

"The people who 'have never heard of the sea and do not even mix salt with their food,'" the King replied, "the ones the shade of Tiresias spoke of when he foresaw my death, 'who know nothing of the sea, their oars as the wings of a ship."'

Eumaeus looked down at the sea again as the next wave broke upon the sheer rock face.

"Destined to dash themselves upon the greed, the deception, and the violence upon which I have built my Kingdom."

Eumaeus nodded.

"The great Odysseus, and his gift to mankind," Odysseus said.

"Gift, my Lord?"

"My exploits, the example of my heroism for generations of men to come."

"You are Odysseus, son of Laertz, King of Ithaca, raider of cities, hero of Ilium." Eumaeus heard himself say the words, but felt the lack of conviction in them.

"I am nobody."


Mike Bates is a corporate attorney, recently retired to retrieve the purpose in his life. His have appeared in Copperfield and Mobius and Scholars and Rogues. Several years ago, he looked across the water at the windswept ridgeline of Ithaca. This story had its genesis in that experience.

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